What was originally thought to be a battle between post players Yanick Moreira of SMU and Alan Williams of UC-Santa Barbara ended up becoming a game decided by timely free throws, clutch three pointers and a key offensive rebound from guards on both teams.
With 33 seconds remaining in overtime and SMU holding on to a 77-71 lead, senior guard Ryan Manuel was fouled after securing the offensive rebound from a missed lay-up attempt by Keith Frazier. The two free-throws eventually sealed the 80-73 victory for the Mustangs and also gave Manuel a reprieve after having missed two free throws late in the second half which allowed the Gauchos to remain in the game.
Manuel was forced to handle the ball more when star point guard Nic Moore left the game with a bruised knee midway through the second half. Despite the adjustment to his in-game responsibilities Manuel performed admirably and finished the game with 12 points — including a thunderous one handed dunk in overtime that energized the crowd and his teammates.
“In practice I’ve been running the point more than Nic has lately,” said Manuel when asked about being thrust into handling the ball more with the injury to Nic Moore. “He (coach Brown) was just telling me to run all the plays like we have before in the second half. And defensively just do what we have been doing the whole game… at the end of the game we turned it up, clamped down and got stops when we really needed it.”
The one player they were able to clamp down on the entire evening was senior Alan Williams. UC-Santa Barbara’s leading scorer was limited to nine points on 4 of 14 shooting. His inability to get in the flow offensively was partly attributed to being in foul trouble most of the evening. On the season Williams averages 32.6 minutes per game but against the Mustangs he only participated in 31 of the 45 total minutes.
With their best player spending more time on the bench than anticipated, UC-Santa Barbara had to look elsewhere for production and they found it in a pair of guards: sophomore Michael Bryson and freshman Gabe Vincent. Bryson led the team with 25 points and 10 rebounds — both season highs. It was Vincent who sent the game into overtime with a corner three-pointer to tied the game at 67. He finished the night with a career high in points (15) and three-pointers made (5) and looks to be back in game shape after missing four games due to a foot injury.
The Gaucho guards took advantage of the Mustangs not having Nic Moore to contend with offensively. When Moore exited the game at the 17:12 mark of the second half SMU seemed to be in control of the game. But within what seemed to be a blink of an eye — but was really an 11 minute stretch, the Gauchos went on an 18-5 run and turned an 12 point deficit into a one point lead. UC-Santa Barbara went into a zone and the Mustangs panicked as there was no ball movement and the guards seemed hesitant to shoot.
The one player that maintained his shooting confidence was sophomore Keith Frazier. It was his three-pointer with 6:06 remaining that woke the team up and gave them enough of a cushion to stave off the furious Gaucho comeback. On the night Frazier finished with a season high 20 points — including four three-pointers.
The frontcourt duo of Yanick Moreira and Cannen Cunningham contributed 15 and 10 points respectively — Cunningham also had 10 rebounds and did a great job of bothering the talented Williams on the defensive end of the court.
“I think we do have length, Cannan, Yanick and Ben are pretty long,” said Coach Brown. “We wanted him to score over us and not put him on the line and I think we did a great job in regards to that.”
The Mustangs now will have eight days to rest up and prepare for the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames. The Flames are 2-7 on the season and are led by Jeff Wiegand who is averaging 15.1ppg and 8.6 rebounds. Hopefully by then Nic Moore will have recovered enough to see action — even thought it looks like the Mustangs may not need his services.